I wouldn’t usually review a book like Chris Stevenson’s Blackmailed Bride, because both the cover and the blurb are unappealing. But there’s a reason I bought this, and I’ll get to it at the end of my review.
The plot begins when Ryan Barlow, a cover artist, stops near a church for a smoke, and sees a woman in a wedding gown up a tree. She asks him for help and climbs down – which gives him a good look up her dress – then hides in his car. Ryan, who’s separated but trying to patch things up with his wife, drives the woman to a police station. She screams that he’s raping her, so he takes her home and hopes his wife doesn’t come back unexpectedly.
The runaway bride, Candace Sabella, is an exotic dancer who saw a mob boss killing a man. The mob boss decided to marry her so she couldn’t be made to testify against him. I have no idea why he didn’t kill her too, but no one behaves realistically around Candace. She tells Ryan she needs to stay in his house until the heat is off, and she’ll cook for him in return. Over the next few days she feeds him plenty of aphrodisiac foods and finally suggests he paint her, stripping naked when he agrees. Sure, he’s married, but she’s lonely.
“I wanted to get a reaction out of you. Women can only handle being ignored for so long until they go out of their minds.”
The main characters are insufferable. Candace crosses the Manic Pixie Dream Girl line at a run and keeps going. She’s clearly meant to be feisty and warm-hearted, but she comes off as a manipulative leech. Ryan is no better. He constantly calls her ‘little gal’ and ‘little girl’. His character arc is to go from thinking exotic dancers are stupid sluts to realizing that this one exotic dancer is an angel God sent to earth specially for him.
“I didn’t know that dancers had brains,” he said. “I thought they were evil bitches who took money from men and squashed their hearts. I didn’t believe they had personalities or feelings.”
Candace rhapsodizes about this beautiful-hearted gentleman with “a goatee that gave him a regal distinction”, and how she would be better for him than his wife. The wife is older than he is, and a lousy cook (of course, it hasn’t occurred to Ryan to step into the kitchen). Oh, and the wife is sterile. When I read that, I knew there’d be a bouncing baby at the end, and I was not wrong.
The sex scenes are lengthy and detailed, but the word “discharge” reminded me of a medical textbook and the word “cum” just turned me off. A kiss is described as “He swabbed the inside of her mouth.” Perhaps he was doing a DNA test.
He laid her on her back and swirled his tongue over each breast, soaking them with saliva.
I imagined him with a long slobbery tongue like a labrador’s.
“Guuugh…ya killin’ ma.”
Hey, leave Mrs. Ingalls out of this!
Are they done yet? Can I look?
If you don’t mind spoilers, it was a relief to get to the end when the mob boss and his thugs catch up with the runaway couple. Ryan calls the thugs cowards, so they drop their guns and start punching. Except for the mob boss, who shoots Candace and became my favorite character.
“Oh, Lord no,” said Ryan. “SOMEBODY GET HERE QUICK. MY BABY HAS BEEN SHOT.”
Yes, this is actually how the dialogue appears in the story.
“Somebody HELP ME!” Ryan cried piteously…
‘I’m this close to having to cook for myself!’
The book needs editing. At one point Candace has “a nervous tick”, and later, she “unsnapped her brazier.” The dialogue tends to be melodramatic, with people explaining everything they think or feel, and although the author knows a great deal about the Martha’s Vineyard setting, this leads to far too much description. There’s nothing positive I can say about this story.
What made me decide to review it, though, was the author stating on a public discussion board that both his editor (there was an editor?) and agent told him that criticism of his book was due to his being a man writing romance. He quoted them as saying, “You’re [a]man and [women] foremost resent the fact that you’re crossing into their turf.” Well, I’m here to tell you that this review has nothing to do with the author’s gender and everything to do with Blackmailed Bride being poorly written, poorly edited, and just plain offensive at times. Its F grade is well-earned.